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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Escobedo Downs Tiafoe in Third Set Breaker to Win Lexington Challenger; Eubanks Qualifies for ATP Atlanta Open; Sandgren Wins Second Straight Futures in Illinois; Bellis Verbally Commits to Stanford

Ernesto Escobedo hasn't had the best of luck in pro finals. From 2013-15, he reached the final of five Futures events, losing them all. This year he made his first Challenger final and lost that too.  When he broke a string at 6-6 in the second set tiebreaker against Frances Tiafoe in today's $50,000 ATP Challenger final in Lexington, he could have viewed it as the tennis fates again conspiring to deny him his first title. But instead, the 20-year-old from California put that misfortune behind him, claiming a 6-2, 6-7(6), 7-6(3) win over Tiafoe, who now has lost in five Challenger finals in the last 17 months without securing a title.

There were no breaks in the final set, and both players had good serving days, with Escobedo hitting 17 aces and Tiafoe 15, with each having three double faults.  Escobedo played the more error-free tiebreaker, while also hitting two winners to take a 6-1 lead.  Tiafoe saved two match points on his serve, but Escobedo closed out the match with a confident overhead winner to claim his first professional title.  He will now move within a few spots of the ATP Top 200 and he takes the lead in the USTA US Open Wild Card Challenge, which will be decided in two weeks at the $100,000 Aptos Challenger.

Georgia Tech's Chris Eubanks at BB&T Atlanta Open
Qualifying for the BB&T Open in Atlanta was completed today, with 20-year-old Chris Eubanks getting an impressive win over ATP No. 104 and qualifying's top seed Thiago Monteiro.  Up a set and a break, the rising junior at Georgia Tech let his break slip away and had to save a set point serving at 4-5, but he held, broke the 22-year-old Brazilian, and served out the match to earn 12 ATP points and a place in the main draw against wild card Reilly Opelka.  Eubanks had beaten Tommy Paul in the first round of qualifying, after winning a wild card tournament to get into the qualifying, necessary due to his ATP ranking of 1817.  Austin Krajicek also qualified into the main draw, with a 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) win over Australian James Duckworth.  Austin Smith, who recently completed his eligibility at Georgia, and Jared Donaldson received wild cards. Smith will play No. 8 seed Taylor Fritz in the first round. 

Tennys Sandgren ran his Futures winning streak to 10 today at the $25,000 Edwardsville, Illinois Futures.  The 25-year-old former Tennessee Volunteer, seeded No. 2, beat No. 8 seed Marc Polmans of Australia 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-3 in the final.  No. 4 seeds Connor Smith(Ohio State) and Jackson Withrow(Texas A&M), won the doubles title, beating top seeds Polmans and Luke Bambridge of Great Britain 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

At the Austin, Texas $10,000 Pro Circuit event for women, top seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico defeated 17-year-old Californian Ashley Kratzer 7-5, 6-4 in today's singles final.

The women's singles title at the women's $50,000 tournament in Lexington went to Michaela Krajicek of the Netherlands, who defeated Arina Rodionova of Australia 6-0, 2-6, 6-2. Neither player was seeded.

At the ITF Grade 2 in Switzerland, No. 4 seed Ashley Lahey lost to top seed Ylena In-Albon of Switzerland 7-5, 7-6(3) in the final.  No. 3 seed August Holmgren of Denmark won the boys title, beating No. 2 seed Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-2.

CiCi Bellis announced during the WTA Bank of the West Classic at Stanford that she had given a verbal commitment to Stanford.  I hadn't read a nuanced look at that announcement until a few days ago, which can be found here.  With so few juniors in the 150s even contemplating college, there isn't a lot of precedent, but many in the 250s, 300s, etc., set a ranking target for their final year before entering college with the understanding that if they reach it, they will not go.  Bellis says she doesn't want to wait that long, mentioning the beginning of 2017 as a potential date for a decision.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Tiafoe and Escobedo in Lexington Challenger Final; Kenin Clinches US Open Wild Card; Kratzer, Sandgren Reach Pro Circuit Finals; Lahey Advances to ITF Grade 2 Final

Eighteen-year-old Frances Tiafoe and 20-year-old Ernesto Escobedo advanced to Sunday's final of the $50,000 Lexington Challenger with three-set wins today, with both young Americans looking for their first Challenger title.  The unseeded Escobedo, who reached his first Challenger final in Brazil in April, defeated Andrew Whittington of Australia 6-1, 6-7(1), 6-1, while No. 7 seed Tiafoe survived a mid-match rain delay to beat Brian Baker 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.  Tiafoe, who has played in four Challenger finals prior to this one, lost his most recent final earlier this month in Winnetka.

The winner of Sunday's championship match will take the lead in the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge, with one more tournament to go, the $100,000 event in Aptos in two weeks.

While the men's US Open wild card is a long way from being decided, the women's belongs to 17-year-old Sonya Kenin, who clinched it with Jamie Loeb's 7-6(1), 6-1 semifinal loss today to Arina Rodionova of Australia at the $50,000 Lexington tournament.  Loeb needed to win the title to overtake Kenin, who won last week's $50,000 tournament in Sacramento.  Kenin will be making her second consecutive main draw appearance at the US Open, with the first via a wild card she received for winning last year's USTA 18s Nationals.  Kenin was entered in San Diego this year, but I suspect she will withdraw now.

Rodionova will play Michaela Krajicek of the Netherlands in Sunday's singles final. No. 3 seeds Hiroko Kuwata of Japan and Lin Zhu of China won the doubles title, beating unseeded Sophie Chang and Alexandra Mueller 6-0, 7-5.

Speaking of the Nationals, the wild card tournament concluded today in Arlington, Texas, with Cal rising sophomore Olivia Hauger and North Carolina rising sophomore Anudeep Kodali earning their places in the San Diego and Kalamazoo main draws.

At the $25,000 Futures in Edwardsville, Illinois, No. 2 seed Tennys Sandgren defeated No. 3 seed Evan King 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-3 to reach the final, where he will meet No. 8 seed Marc Polmans.  Polmans advanced with a 6-4, 6-2 win over fellow Australian and 2014 US Open boys champion Omar Jasika, the No. 4 seed.

At the $10,000 women's tournament in Austin, Texas, 17-year-old Ashley Kratzer reached her first Pro Circuit final, beating wild card Josie Kuhlman 6-2, 6-3.  The Californian, who hasn't played a junior tournament in years, will face top seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico, who defeated qualifier Ronit Yurovsky 6-1, 6-3.

The doubles title went to unseeded Lorraine Guillermo(Pepperdine) and Catherine Harrison(UCLA) who beat unseeded Madison Harrison(Mississippi State) and Stephanie Nauta(Virginia) 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

The most significant ITF junior tournament this week is the Grade 2 in Switzerland, where 16-year-old Ashley Lahey advanced to the final.  No. 4 seed Lahey, a Pepperdine recruit, will face top seed Ylena In-Albon of Switzerland for the championship.  Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's match, Lahey will enter the ITF Top 100 for the first time thanks to her excellent results on European clay this summer.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Girls 18s Clay Court Championships Recap, Slideshow, Videos

The Tennis Recruiting Network has provided coverage of all eight USTA Clay Court Championships this week, concluding with my recap of the Girls 18s from Memphis. Sebastian Korda's win in the boys 18s is featured here, with Lukas Greif's 16s title here. Alexa Noel's win at the girls 16s is here, Christine Canete's win at the girls 14s is here and Katja Wiersholm's win at the girls is here. The recap of Zane Khan's championship at the 14s is here and Evan Wen's championship at the 12s is here.

Below is the slideshow of the girls 18s top finishers in singles and doubles and short videos of the two finalists. The mobile link for the album is here.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Witmer, McCann Win New Balance High School Championship Titles; Loeb, Tiafoe, Nguyen Reach Lexington $50K Quarterfinals; 11 US Players Advance in Austin, Edwardsville Pro Circuit Tournaments

The New Balance High School Championships concluded today in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with unseeded Ian Witmer and No. 4 seed Allison McCann claiming the titles.

North Palm Beach, Florida's Witmer, who has committed to Georgetown for this fall, defeated No. 7 seed Richie Torres 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 to win the tournament and a wild card into the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships next month in College Park, Maryland.

The girls title went to Amherst, Massachusetts' McCann, a Dartmouth rising freshman, who defeated No. 2 seed Alexis Merrill 7-5, 6-1. McCann will also receive a wild card into the Grade 1 in College Park. Merrill, a rising high school junior, is the only finalist who is not moving on to college tennis this fall.

At the $25,000 Evansville Futures event, five Americans have reached the quarterfinals, including last week's champion in Godfrey, second seed Tennys Sandgren. Joining Sandgren in the quarterfinals Friday are qualifier Emil Reinberg, the Georgia rising sophomore, No. 7 seed Connor Smith, who plays Sandgren, No. 3 seed Evan King, and Christian Harrison.  Harrison, who missed more than two years with numerous illnesses and surgeries in 2014 and 2015, defeated top seed Blake Mott of Australia 6-4, 6-3.

Six US women have advanced to the quarterfinals at the $10,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Austin. Texas Tech rising sophomore Felicity Maltby, a qualifier, beat No. 3 seed Katie Boulter of Great Britain 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of a Pro Circuit tournament for the first time. Sixteen-year-old wild card Jayci Goldsmith won her first Pro Circuit match yesterday and followed that up tonight with a 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 win over South Africa's Ilze Hattingh. Qualifier Ronit Yurovsky, who beat 2015 Australian Open girls champion and No. 4 seed Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia in the first round, wild card Ashley Kratzer, who beat No. 5 seed Miharu Imanishi of Japan in the second round, No. 6 seed Alexa Graham, and wild card Josie Kuhlman, who beat No. 2 seed Connie Hsu 6-2, 6-1 in the second round, are the other US players to advance to the quarterfinals.

Rain forced second round matches at the Lexington men's and women's $50,000 tournament indoors for most of the matches.  Kristie Ahn lost to qualifier Greet Minnen of Belgium 6-2, 6-3, and with wild card Francesca Di Lorenzo's 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 first round win over No. 6 seed Grace Min, only Jamie Loeb remains with a chance to catch Sonya Kenin for the USTA's US Open wild card.  Loeb, who defeated No. 4 seed Lin Zhu of China 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, must win the tournament to overtake Kenin, who lost in the first round. Loeb, who reached the quarterfinals of the Stockton Challenger two weeks ago, plays Minnen next.  Di Lorenzo is the only other US woman who could reach the quarterfinals, with the 19-year-old wild card playing Sabina Sharipova of Uzbekistan tonight.

Daniel Nguyen claimed one of his best wins tonight, beating No. 2 seed and ATP No. 62 Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals of the $50,000 ATP Challenger in Lexington. Nguyen had lost to Jaziri last year in the second round of the Champaign Challenger in two close sets.  Frances Tiafoe, the No. 7 seed, is also into the quarterfinals, where he'll play Mitchell Krueger, who had his best win as a professional yesterday, defeating top seed and ATP No. 68 Adrian Mannarino of France 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. Ernesto Escobedo, Alex Kuznetsov and Brian Baker give the US six men in the quarterfinals.  Krueger leads the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge, with the $100,000 Aptos Challenger in two weeks the final leg in that contest.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Mmoh Among Kalamazoo Wild Cards, Holt Withdraws; Donaldson Beats Fognini to Reach Third Round at ATP Masters in Toronto; Info on Sol Schwartz Memorial Tournament

Michael Mmoh has accepted a wild card into the upcoming USTA Boys 18 Nationals in Kalamazoo, which begins on August 5th.  Although Mmoh is currently 323 in the ATP rankings, sixth in the world among all boys 18-and-under, his chances for a main draw US Open wild card are slim, with Frances Tiafoe, Stefan Kozlov, Jared Donaldson, Tommy Paul, Ernesto Escobedo and Noah Rubin, all 20 or under,  ahead of him in the ATP rankings. With only three discretionary wild cards remaining (Kalamazoo champion, NCAA champion, reciprocal wild cards with France and Australia, and the USTA Wild Card Challenge account for the other five), Mmoh's clearest path to his first major main draw is through Kalamazoo.

The 18s wild cards:
Michael Mmoh
Brian Cernoch
Caleb Chakravarthi
Aleks Huryn
Sebastian Korda
Nathan Perrone

A seventh wild card was not used, allowing the next player on the alternate list to get in.  The eighth wild card will go to the winner of the USTA National Wild Card tournament in Arlington, Texas, which takes place in this weekend. North Carolina rising sophomore Anudeep Kodali is in the 16-player boys draw.

The 16s wild cards(three not used):

Arnav Dhingra 
JanMagnus Johnson
Jaycer Lyeons 
Brian Shi

William Woodall

Brandon Holt, who reached the round of 16 in singles and finished third in doubles last year, has withdrawn.  Holt has been dealing with a back injury since the junior clay season in Europe.

A complete list of players can be viewed at ustaboys.com.

Four US men have advanced to the round of 16 at the ATP Masters Rogers Cup in Toronto, three of them outside the Top 100.  Qualifier Jared Donaldson picked up the biggest win of his young career in defeating No. 33 Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and will play Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic next.  At age 32, Rajeev Ram has reached his first Masters round of 16 with a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory over No. 13 seed Lucas Pouille of France, and qualifier Ryan Harrison took out John Isner, seeded No. 9, 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 6-4.  The fourth US player in the round of 16, and the only one inside the top 100 is No. 16 seed Jack Sock, who beat Donald Young 6-4, 6-3. Harrison's opponent is No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych and Sock plays No. 2 seed Stan Wawrinka.

Lisa Stone is honoring Sol Schwartz, who died unexpectedly earlier this year, by organizing a tournament in his honor next month in Maryland. A recent press release explaining the reason for and the particulars of the tournament is below:

For Immediate Release

ATLANTA, GA July 25, 2016 – On March 16, 2016, the Tennis World lost one of its biggest supporters, Sol Schwartz. He was 46 years old. He was a husband, a father of two, a son, a brother, an uncle, a coach, a mentor, and a friend.

Lisa Stone, creator of the ParentingAces website and radio show, had a short-lived but very meaningful friendship with Schwartz and published her tribute to him almost immediately after hearing of his passing. Her piece went viral, eventually making its way onto Huffington Post.
Stone wrote, “I first ‘met’ Sol in the way I ‘meet’ so many people these days: via Facebook. He and I were both members of a tennis-themed group and both posted regularly, I about tennis parenting and he about college tennis. I guess it was our passion for the sport that first drew us toward each other.”

But it was Schwartz’s commitment to improving the junior tennis tournament experience through the Holabird-adidas All-In Junior Tennis Challenge that provided the first opportunity for Stone to meet him in person. “ . . . when he picked us up at our hotel to take my son for a practice hit, it was like being picked up by an old friend. There was no awkwardness, no moment of hesitation, simply a connection that was already established because of our extensive phone calls and Facebook interactions. This man was genuine and good-hearted and took us into his city and into his home and made us an immediate part of his family,” explains Stone.

When she started thinking about the best way to honor the memory of her friend, Stone came up with the idea of creating a junior tournament in the spirit of Schwartz’s 2012 Holabird event. She reached out to Sol’s friends and family and pulled together a hard-working committee consisting of Holabird owner David Schwartz, college tennis coach Robert Hubbard, tennis parent Melanie Rubin, and Randy Jenks of Universal Tennis Ratings. In addition to presenting sponsor Holabird Sports, the committee has secured sponsorships from Wilson Tennis, 10sBalls.com, Kassimir Physical Therapy, as well as several of Schwartz’s friends and family members.

The Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tournament presented by Holabird Sports, affectionately known as #TheSol, will be held August 20-21, 2016 at The Suburban Club in Pikesville, Maryland, a suburb of Schwartz’s hometown of Baltimore. It is open to all junior players – boys and girls - age 18 and under. Players will be able to receive coaching at the changeovers and will be guaranteed 4 matches under the format created by Universal Tennis. Unlike most junior tournaments where the winners receive a plastic trophy, winners of #TheSol will receive an incredible equipment and clothing prize package provided by Wilson Tennis. Click here to go to the tournament website for more details and to register to play.

According to Stone, “The goal of #TheSol is to continue the good work that Sol committed his life to: preserving college tennis and making junior tennis accessible to all. We would like to create a non-profit over the next few months that can be used to provide grants to college teams in danger of being cut. I hope we can see this event grow into a series of tournaments held on college campuses across the US. For juniors to have the chance to play at collegiate facilities is such a gift, one that can feed the desire to become college – and, hopefully, life-long - players themselves. With the help of our sponsors and amazing committee members, we are well on our way toward reaching that goal.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

USA Teams Named for ITF World Junior Tennis Competiton; Shapovalov Defeats Kyrgios in Toronto; Tsitsipas, Anshba Win European Championships; New Balance High School Championships Underway

The three boys and three girls who will represent the United States in the ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under team competition in the Czech Republic next month have been selected.  Two USTA Clay Court champions will compete on the red clay in Prostejov August 1-6: 16s girls champion Alexa Noel and 14s boys champion Zane Khan.

Clays runnerup Faris Khan will join his twin brother on the boys team, as will Les Petits As champion Stefan Leustian, who finished third at the recently completed Clay Court championships.  Eric Nunez will coach the team of 14-year-olds.

The girls team will feature Noel, who will turn 14 in September, and 14-year-olds Whitney Osuigwe and Vanessa Ong.  Ong lost 7-6 in the third to Noel in the quarterfinals of the Clays, while Osuigwe made the quarterfinals of last week's $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Evansville, losing to eventual champion Kennedy Shaffer.  Jean Desdunes will coach the girls. 

Last night at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Wimbledon boys champion Denis Shapovalov won the first main draw ATP match of his career, beating No. 11 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3.  The 17-year-old left-hander had made his ATP debut as a wild card last week in Washington, falling in three sets to Slovakia's Lukas Lacko.  Shapovalov will play Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in a Wednesday night match.  For more on Shapovalov's win over Kyrgios, see the ATP website.

Plenty of US men advanced to the second round at the Toronto Masters including qualifiers Dennis Novikov, Jared Donaldson and Ryan Harrison, Donald Young, Rajeev Ram, Sam Querrey, No. 16 seed Jack Sock and No. 9 seed John Isner.

The European Championships, an ITF Grade B1 tournament, ended Sunday in Switzerland, with Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas and Russia's Amina Anshba taking the titles.  Tsitsipas, the top seed, defeated unseeded Corentin Moutet of France 7-6(7), 5-3 retired in the final, while No. 3 seed Anshba beat top seed Olesya Pervushina of Russia 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.   The girls doubles title went to No. 11 seeds Astrid Brune Olsen and Malene Helgo of Norway, who beat Italians Federica Bilardo and Tatiana Pieri, seeded No. 5, 6-4, 7-5 in the final. The Polish team of Piotr Matuszewski and Kacper Zuk, seeded No. 2, won the boys doubles title with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 6 seeds Artem Dubrivnyy and Pavel Kotov of Russia. 

In the 16s, No. 2 seed Olga Danilovic of Serbia defeated top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-3, 6-1 for the girls title and two unseeded Spaniards met in the boys final, with Carola Sanchez Jover beating Rafael Izquierdo Luque 0-6, 7-6(4), 6-2.

In the 14s, both No. 1 seeds took the singles titles. Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic beat unseeded Lorenzo Musetti of Italy 7-6(6), 6-3 to take the boys title and Helene Pellicano of Malta won the girls title with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 4 seed Denisa Hindova of the Czech Republic.

Complete draws can be found on the Tennis Europe website.

The New Balance High School tournament is underway at Harvard University, with the quarterfinals set for Wednesday.  Top seeds Drew Singerman of Kentucky and Chambers Easterling of South Carolina have advanced, as have all top eight seeds in the girls draw, including two-time finalist and No. 1 seed Jenna Moustafa of California. Draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

Keegan Smith and Olivia Rohrbacher won titles last year.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Kenin Wins $50,000 Sacramento Challenger, Takes US Open Wild Card Lead; Sandgren, Kennedy Take Pro Circuit Titles in Godfrey & Evansville; Black Wins Third Straight ITF Grade 4

Seventeen-year-old Sonya Kenin won her second career USTA Pro Circuit title last night in at the $50,000 Sacramento tournament, beating No. 2 seed Grace Min 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the final.  The title boosted Kenin's WTA ranking to a career-high of 247. The unseeded Floridian, who had won her first Pro Circuit title at the $25,000 event in Wesley Chapel Florida in January, also took the lead in the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge with only this week's $50,000 tournament in Lexington left in the series. Min and Bellis, second and third in the standings, are in the draw, as is Kenin, with a special exemption. Defending champion Kenin is entered in the USTA Girls 18s Nationals in San Diego next month, but her participation is doubtful if she wins the US Open wild card this week. Below are the current standings for the women's Wild Card Challenge.

Ashley Weinhold and Caitlin Whoriskey defended their doubles title in Sacramento, with the No. 2 seeds defeating No. 3 seeds Chanel Simmonds of South Africa and Jamie Loeb 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

At the $25,000 Futures in Godfrey, Illinois, former Tennessee Volunteer Tennys Sandgren won his third Futures singles title of the year and the 11th of his career.  The 25-year-old top seed defeated No. 2 seed Facundo Mena of Argentina 6-0, 6-4 in the final.

Nathan Ponwith, who will be starting college at Georgia next month, and rising Georgia sophomore Emil Reinberg won the doubles title in Godfrey. The unseeded pair defeated Mena and partner Jesus Bandres of Venezuela 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

At the $10,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Evansville, Indiana, rising Georgia junior Kennedy Shaffer won the battle of qualifiers, beating former Michigan All-American Emina Bektas 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 in the final. It's the 19-year-old Shaffer's first Pro Circuit title.

No. 3 seeds Sophie Chang and Alexandra Mueller won the doubles title with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 2 seeds Brynn Boren and Keri Wong.

Fifteen-year-old Hurricane Tyra Black ran her ITF junior winning streak this month to 14 in capturing her third straight singles title. The top-seeded Black, who had won Grade 4s in the Bahamas and Dominican Republic the past two weeks, took the championship in the Grade 4 in Jamaica with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over No. 6 seed Alexandra Tutecky of Canada.  Black has now returned to the ITF Top 100, at 85, just two spots short of her career high.  The US has 16 girls in the Top 100 this week, with Russia in second place with 9.

Jenna Dean won the doubles title in Jamaica, partnering River Hart of Canada. The No. 2 seeds defeated No. 3 seeds Ines Milosevic and Tutecky of Canada 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

The USTA's release on the Clay Court championships was sent out today and is available below.


Korda, Li Earn Wild Cards into 2016 US Open Junior Championships

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., July 25, 2016 – Sixteen-year olds Sebastian Korda (Bradenton, Fla.) and Ann Li (Devon, Pa.) each won singles titles at last week’s USTA Boys’ and Girls’ 18s National Clay Court Championships to earn wild card entries into the 2016 US Open Junior Championships.

Korda, the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and one of a handful of junior boys to train with Ivan Lendl over the last year via a USTA Player Development initiative, defeated fellow Floridian Alexandre Rotsaert, of Boca Raton, 6-4, 6-1, in the Boys’ 18s final at the Delray Beach Tennis Center in Delray Beach, Fla. William Genesen and Zeke Clark, a pair of Tulsa, Okla., natives won the 18s’ doubles title over Jason Legall (Palm Coast, Fla.) and Andrew Fenty (Washington, D.C.), the son of former Washington, D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty.

Li, meanwhile, nearly swept the Girls’ 18s singles and doubles titles at The Racquet Club of Memphis in Memphis, Tenn., defeating Delray Beach’s Amanda Meyer, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, in the singles final but falling in the doubles final, with Anna Brylin (Short Hills, N.J.), to Elysia Bolton (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.) and Abigail Chiu (Austin, Texas), 6-2, 6-2.

In addition to their US Open junior wild card entries, Korda and Li each receive a wild card into a future USTA Pro Circuit event.

Lukas Greif (Evansville, Ind.) and Alexa Noel (Summit, N.J.) won the Boys’ and Girls’ 16s singles titles, each earning a wild card into a future USTA Pro Circuit event.

USTA Boys’ 18s National Clay Court Championships
Delray Beach, Fla., July 17-24, 2016
Singles: Sebastian Korda (Bradenton, Fla.) d. (7) Alexandre Rotsaert (Boca Raton, Fla.), 6-4, 6-1
Doubles: (8) Zeke Clark (Tulsa, Okla.) / William Genesen (Tulsa, Okla.) d. Andrew Fenty (Washington, D.C.) / Jason Legall (Palm Coast, Fla.), 7-6, 7-6

USTA Girls’ 18s National Clay Court Championships
Memphis, Tenn., July 17-24, 2016
Singles: (4) Ann Li (Devon, Pa.) d. (9) Amanda Meyer (Delray Beach, Fla.), 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
Doubles: (2) Elysia Bolton (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.) / Abigail Chiu (Austin, Texas) d. (3) Anna Brylin (Short Hills, N.J.) / Ann Li (Devon, Pa.), 6-2, 6-2

USTA Boys’ 16s National Clay Court Championships
Delray Beach, Fla., July 17-24, 2016
Singles: (7) Lukas Greif (Evansville, Ind.) d. (14) Jenson Brooksby (Carmichael, Calif.), 6-1, 6-1
Doubles: (3) Blake Croyder (Marietta, Ga.) / Bradley Frye (Overland Park, Kan.)d. (9) Drew Baird (Holly Springs, N.C.) / Lukas Greif (Evansville, Ind.), 6-2, 3-6, 6-2

USTA Girls’ 16s National Clay Court Championships
Virginia Beach, Va., July 17-24, 2016
Singles: (17) Alexa Noel (Summit, N.J.) d. (5) Amber O’Dell (New Milford, N.J.), 1-6, 6-4, 6-3
Doubles: (2) Chloe Beck (Watkinsville, Ga.) / Emma Navarro (Charleston, S.C.) d. Alexa Noel (Summit, N.J.) / Peyton Stearns (Mason, Ohio) 6-3, 6-1

USTA Boys’ 14s National Clay Court Championships
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., July 17-23, 2016
Singles: (9) Zane Khan (San Antonio) d. (7) Faris Khan (San Antonio), 6-4, 6-4
Doubles: Zane Khan / Faris Khan (San Antonio) d. (4) Jeremie Casabon (Flourtown, Pa.) / Eliot Spizzirri (Greenwich, Conn.), 7-5, 6-2

USTA Girls’ 14s National Clay Court Championships
Plantation, Fla., July 17-23, 2016
Singles: (9) Christine Canete (Venice, Calif.) d. (17) Ellie Coleman (Midland, Mich.), 6-1, 6-1
Doubles: (6) Rosie Garcia Gross (New York) / Yashna Yellayi (Williamsville, N.Y.) d. (1) Mae Canete (Venice, Calif.) / Christine Canete (Venice, Calif.), 6-2, 6-3

USTA Boys’ 12s National Clay Court Championships
Mt. Pleasant, S.C., July 17-23, 2016
Singles: (1) Evan Wen (Morristown, N.J.) d.(6) Victor Lilov (Raleigh, N.C.), 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
Doubles: (5) Jack Anthrop (Orlando, Fla.) / James Delgado (High Point, N.C.) d. (3) Ryan Colby (Alexandria, Va.) / Braden Shick (Greensboro, N.C.), 6-1, 7-6

USTA Girls’ 12s National Clay Court Championships
Boca Raton, Fla., July 17-23, 2016
Singles: (6) Katja Wiersholm (Kirkland, Wash.) d. (2) Robin Montgomery (Washington, D.C.), 7-6(5), 0-6, 7-6(4)
Doubles: (14) Nikki Yanez (Sarasota, Fla.) / Maria Drobotova (Deerfield Beach, Fla.) d. (14) Calissa Dellabarca (Santa Barbara, Calif.) / Bridget Stammel (Dallas), 6-2, 4-6, 6-2

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Li Survives Tough Three-Setter to Claim USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championship; Korda Wins Boys 18s; Noel and Greif Take 16s Titles

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Memphis, TN--

A first singles gold ball was the reward for No. 4 seed Ann Li Sunday afternoon, as she survived a 90-minute rain delay prior to the start of the final and a spirited challenge from No. 9 seed Amanda Meyer to claim a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championships.

Court 4, the show court at the Racquet Club of Memphis, needed extensive maintenance work for about an hour, but the skies cleared and the steamy temperatures that have been smothering the area all week reappeared by the second set of the final.

Li, a 16-year-old from Devon, Pennsylvania, took the opening set by taking her first opportunity late in the set.  With Meyer serving at 4-all 40-15, Li got the game to deuce, then came up with a nasty slice that stayed short and low, drawing an error from Meyer.  On break point, her first since the first game of the match, Li hung on in a rally, with Meyer eventually sending a forehand long.

Serving for the set, Li went up 40-15, but missed a backhand on her first set point. On the second, she got a chance to move forward and she put away a swinging forehand volley to take the lead.

"I think in the first set, we were both not playing as well," said Li. "But I think I was kind of more solid than her. But in the second set, I was playing her game style more. I was hitting into her strike zone a lot, so it was easy for her to dictate off the points."

Meyer was having more difficulty holding serve in the second set, but got an important hold in a four-deuce game at 3-3, then broke Li, who was up 30-0, by taking four straight points, including a backhand winner on game point.

Meyer held, converting her first set point when Li missed a second serve return, executing the game planned she had formulated after the first set.

"I just wanted to stay in there and take control of the point a little faster," said the 17-year-old from Delray Beach, Florida. "In the first set, I just gave her too many opportunities to pull me off the court and win the point. So in the second set, I just tried to focus on attacking first."

After the 10-minute break between the second and third sets, Li came out with a much more aggressive mindset and quickly took a 2-0 lead. Meyer, who is usually very quiet on the court, berated herself for errors that came from being too energized.

"In the third set I came out with a little too much adrenaline," Meyer said. "I hit the ball a little too hard, my mind was in overdrive.  In the third game, I really focused on calming myself down and taking it point by point, staying in the moment."

Li admitted she began to feel the effects of her two three-set matches on Saturday late in the second set.

"In the ten minutes, I really tried to regroup and stay positive," said Li. "Because I was a little angry at the end.  I tried to dictate more, because in the second, I was kind of falling behind.  So I was really focusing on attacking her second serve and trying to keep my first serve percentage high and I think I did a good job of that."

Li also said she talked herself out of feeling any fatigue in that break.

""I tried not to think of myself as tired, and when I came out, I didn't feel tired anymore.  That energy really helped me."

Li did give up her early break in the third game of the third set, but got another with Meyer serving at 2-3, denying three game points and converting on her first break point with a backhand that forced an error. 

Li had a point to go up 5-2 in her service game, but Meyer kept fighting, and got the break back to get to 4-3.

"It was definitely disappointing, because I could have been up 5-2," Li said of that game. "But I think I did a good job of staying calm at that time, doing what I was doing before, and I think that worked."

After two holds, Meyer was serving to stay in the match at 4-5, and Li really applied pressure on the first two points.  Li's forehand volley winner and backhand on the baseline made it 0-30, and she had looks at second serves on the next two points.  But Meyer made good deep second serves and won both points to make it 30-all. Meyer won the next point when Li made an unforced error on the backhand, but Meyer then netted a forehand to make it deuce.  On the next point, Li put a ball deep into the backhand corner and Meyer couldn't get into position to return it, sending the backhand wide.  She missed her first serve and the good second serve she had found earlier in the game wasn't there for a third time and she double faulted to give Li the title.

"That was a relief," Li admitted of the double fault, knowing how every point had been so hard to earn in the late stages of the match.

Although Meyer said she was disappointed to lose, she did manage to enjoy her first USTA Level 1 final.

"I was able to savor almost all of the points," said Meyer, who had vowed she would do that after winning her semifinal match. "Except for maybe the double fault at the end. These are the types of matches that make me a better player, and I've got to keep that in mind. Not to be too upset--it's the finals--I went a long way to get here, and overall I'm very happy. I'll come out of this tournament a better player and person."

Li is not one to show much emotion on the court, and with the way the match ended, an on-court celebration was not forthcoming.  But she was all smiles at the trophy presentation and excited to have her first major USTA singles title.

"It feels really good. Honestly, when I was sitting there, it kind of felt like I won a grand slam," Li said. "It felt really good. A lot of hard work, and all of it paid off."

 Li was unable to add a second gold ball in the doubles championship, with No. 2 seeds Elysia Bolton and Abigail Chiu picking up the title with a 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 3 seeds Li and Anna Brylin in the late afternoon final.

Bolton, from New York, and Chiu, from Texas, had played together only once before, losing in an ITF Grade 4 final, but they now have eight gold balls in doubles between them.

"We played really well today," said Bolton, who won the Easter Bowl Grade B1 ITF title in April with Chiara Lommer. "I think that's the best we've played all tournament."

"I had a lot of fun this week," Chiu said. "This is my second time playing with Elysia, and I think our games complement each other well, and we've played really well throughout this tournament. I'm really happy to have won a gold ball in one of my last Super Nationals."

"It was fun to play with her, because she's always really funny on the court," Bolton said. "I've played with some really great partners. Playing with Chiara at Easter Bowl and Abby here, I've had a lot of fun playing doubles recently."

Chiu and Bolton will not be teaming up for the Nationals next month in San Diego, with Bolton already committed to playing with someone else when she was first approached by Chiu.

The third-place bronze ball in doubles went to No. 1 seeds Lexi Milunovich and Anna Rogers, who beat Lommer and Victoria Flores, the No. 4 seeds, 7-5, 0-6, 6-3.

The singles bronze ball was won by the unseeded Lommer, who defeated Isabella Lorenzini, a No. 9 seed, 6-2, 6-1 in the third place singles match.

Bolton, a No. 9 seed, took fifth place, winning the consolation tournament with a 6-2, 6-4 decision over Nami Otsuka, a No. 17 seed.

Bolton was also the recipient of the USTA Sportsmanship Award.

For complete draws, see the Tennis Link site.

At the girls 16s, No. 17 seed Alexa Noel made it two straight Clay titles. The 2015 champion in the girls 14s defeated No. 5 seed Amber O'Dell 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.

At the boys 16s, No. 7 seed Lukas Greif took the title with a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 14 seed Jenson Brooksby.

Unseeded Sebastian Korda, son of former ATP player Petr Korda, took the boys 18s title, defeating No. 7 seed Alexandre Rotsaert 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

Both Korda and Li have earned wild cards into the main draw of the US Open Junior Championships with the title.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ann Li, Amanda Meyer Meet Sunday for Girls 18s Clay Court Title; Finals Set in 16s, Boys 18s; Champions Crowned in 12s and 14s Divisions

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Memphis, TN--

No. 4 seed Ann Li came into her Girls 18s Clay Court Championships semifinal match with Chiara Lommer having lost only ten games in her five victories. Down a set and a break to the unseeded Lommer, Li tapped into the energy reserves those routine matches allowed her to store, came back to post a 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 win.

Lommer was down a break twice in the opening set, but each time the 17-year-old from Illinois immediately broke back, playing aggressively and winning most of the backhand battles.  After holding for 5-4, Lommer broke to take the set, with Li making two backhand errors after saving one set point.

"She was steady from the baseline and I was, in the first set, maybe trying to do too much," Li said.

Down 3-1 in the second set after being broken at love, Li did what Lommer had done in the first set, getting the break right back when Lommer made a few rare unforced errors.  Li then began to hold serve more easily, while Lommer had to win lengthy service games to stay ahead, including saving two break points at 5-5.

In the tiebreaker, Li went up 4-2 and 5-3, but Lommer pulled even when Li netted a backhand after a long rally for 5-5.  Li held with a big forehand forcing an error to earn a set point on Lommer's serve, and she converted it when Lommer's backhand went wide.

Although just two points from a loss, Li didn't show any sign of nerves.

"I'm actually a pretty calm person usually," said the 16-year-old from Pennsylvania. "I just tried to breathe, stay calm and positive. Not focusing on the past, but on the right now. Being confident in yourself, I think it helps a lot."

During the 10-minute break between the second and third sets, Li phoned her coach Jon Glover, who recently joined the USTA as a National Coach.

"It was mostly about me," said Li, who also works with USTA coaches Erik Kortland and Jay Devashetty in New York. "I was trying to mix up my shots and get into the net."

The third set opened with two breaks of serve, but five straight holds followed. Serving at 3-4, Lommer saved two break points, while Li rode her forehand to an easy hold in the next game to make it 5-4.

Li's pressure extended into the next game, with a backhand forcing an error and a forehand return winner making it 0-30.  Lommer netted a forehand after a long rally to give Li three match points, but two netted forehands had her down to her last one.

Lommer got her first serve in, but Li was ready and sent a good deep return to the baseline. Lommer couldn't quite get set for it and hit her reply wide to end the two-hour and 40-minute match.

"After two, I said, I need to get this one right now," said Li. "I don't want to drag it out any longer. I had to put it all out there, but fortunately, it wasn't too hot and it was pretty cloudy, so I'm lucky I had that energy."

Li will play Amanda Meyer in Sunday morning's final, their first meeting, after Meyer defeated fellow No. 9 seed Isabella Lorenzini 6-4, 6-3.

Meyer started well, taking a 3-1 lead in the first set, but lost three straight games. Lorenzini was unable to capitalize on the change in momentum however, with her serve going off at that crucial stage in the set.  She double faulted twice in losing serve at 4-3, and after Meyer held for a 5-4 lead, Lorenzini double faulted three times, including on set point, to give Meyer the set.

In the second set, Meyer trailed briefly at after getting broken at 1-1, but won three straight games and never trailed after that. In the final game, Lorenzini missed an easy forehand putaway that would have given her a break point, instead giving Meyer a match point, which Meyer converted when Lorenzini netted a forehand.

Meyer said that both she and Lorenzini returned well, accounting for most of the breaks in the match, and she also detected a change in strategy from Lorenzini in the second set.

"Her return was really solid," said the 17-year-old from Florida. "She tried to hit it higher, I think. I felt like I adapted to that.  But overall, it was mostly the returns.  I put a lot of pressure on her serve, and I think that made the difference."

Meyer, who won the Bobby Curtis Florida Closed last month, detailed the improvements in her game, which she said have been mostly on the mental side.

"Focus, concentration, staying in the point," said Meyer, who is coached by Mandy Wilson at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton. "Having a presence on the court. That's what my coach really puts emphasis on, the mental part of the game."

Neither Li nor Meyer have played in a USTA Level 1 singles final before, but Meyer is not concerned about that.

"I'm just going to go out and play," Meyer said. "It's my first final, I'm going to enjoy it, go out and play my game. Just savor every point."

Li may be playing in her first singles final at a USTA major championship, but she will go for her second consecutive Clay Court doubles title when she and Anna Brylin, the No. 3 seeds, play No. 2 seeds Elysia Bolton and Abigail Chiu.  Li, who won the 16s doubles title at the Clay Courts in Virginia Beach with Natasha Subhash, and Brylin, who was in that final against Li and Subhash with partner Clarissa Hand, defeated top seeds Lexi Milunovich and Anna Rogers 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.  Li and Brylin won the bronze ball at this year's 18s Winter Nationals, their only other tournament as a team. Bolton and Chiu advanced with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 4 seeds Lommer and Victoria Flores.

Bolton will also play in the consolation singles final, taking on Nami Otsuka.

For draws, see the Tennis Link site.

The finals are set for the girls 16s and the boys 16s and 18s after today's semifinals.

In the girls 16s, Alexa Noel will go for her second straight Clay Court singles championship.  The 2015 14s winner, seeded 17, will play No. 5 seed Amber O'Dell Sunday in Virginia Beach.

In the boys 16s, Jenson Brooksby, the No. 14 seed, will face No. 7 seed Lukas Greif.

In the boys 18s, unseeded Sebastian Korda will play No. 7 seed Alexandre Rotsaert, who also reached the 18s final last year in Delray Beach, losing to Sam Riffice.

The champions were decided in the 12s and 14s divisions today.

No. 9 seed Christine Canete defeated No. 17 seed Ellie Coleman 6-1, 6-1 to take the girls 14s title in Plantation, Florida. Canete won the Winter National 12s in January.

No. 9 seed Zane Khan defeated brother Faris Khan, the No. 7 seed, 6-4, 6-4 to win the boys 14s title in Fort Lauderdale, with the twins also capturing the doubles championship. Khan defeated Faris for the 12s Clays and Hard Courts National titles in 2014.

No. 6 seed Katja Wiersholm, sister of Virginia's Henrik Wiersholm, won the girls 12s title in Boca Raton, beating No. 2 seed Robin Montgomery 7-6(5), 0-6, 7-6(4) in the final.

Evan Wen, the only top seed to win a singles title at the Clays, defeated No. 6 seed Victor Lilov 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to win the boys 12s in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Blumberg Chooses UNC; Li and Lommer, Meyer and Lorenzini Advance to Girls 18s Clay Court Semifinals; Finals Set in 12s and 14s Clays

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Memphis, TN--

I had an opportunity to talk with William Blumberg about his commitment to the University of North Carolina earlier this month at Wimbledon and this article for the Tennis Recruiting Network is the result of that conversation. The top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2017, Blumberg plans to start school in January.  With Brayden Schnur, who has played No. 1 for the Tar Heels the past three years, announcing today that he has turned pro, Blumberg will be asked to contribute immediately.

Today in Memphis, the brutal heat continued, with the high temperature topping out at 100, and the heat index nearing 120.  As a result, the quality of the tennis in the quarterfinals of Girls 18s Clay Court Championships was uneven, although No. 4 seed Ann Li managed to maintain her level, advancing with a 6-0, 6-1 win over unseeded Chelsea Kung.

Li, who has lost only 10 games in her five wins this week, said she has found her form on the surface.

"I think I'm really comfortable on clay now," said the 16-year-old from Pennsylvania, who trains with the USTA in New York. "I was practicing on clay before I came here and I'm moving really well and playing my game, executing well."

Li said she finds the conditions in Florida, where she also trains occasionally, even more oppressive, although she admits her short match times have made this week less taxing than it could be.

"It really helps to quicken the match, not drag everything," said Li. "I can save my energy for later matches."

Li will play unseeded Chiara Lommer, who outlasted No. 9 seed Elysia Bolton 6-3, 7-6(4).

Bolton became ill late in the second set of the match, vomiting on the court when returning serve leading 6-5.  A delay to clean the court did not derail Lommer, who held serve and then closed out the match in the tiebreaker.

"She really hid it well," Lommer said of Bolton's difficulties. "I had no idea up until 5-all, when she went up to the ref and told him. She was doing a great job, playing and competing really well."

The first set saw Lommer get a break in the fourth game and she made it stand up. Lommer served well, while Bolton's backhand was the source of most of her errors.

The second set was the opposite of the first, with eight of the first nine games going to the returner.

"I was just not concentrating at all on my service targets," Lommer said. "I was starting to groove a little bit more on her serve and I think she was doing the same with my serve."

Bolton was up 4-2 and 5-3, but was immediately broken right back. Serving for the set, Bolton didn't make Lommer work for the break, with unforced errors sandwiched around a good return and a double fault putting the set back on serve. Lommer began to serve better in her final two service games, and although she held service only twice in the tiebreaker, that was enough, with Bolton sending a final backhand long on Lommer's second match point.

Lommer, who played in Europe this summer and qualified for the Wimbledon Junior Championships, had to adjust to the major changes in temperatures and surface in a short time.

"I just came from college orientation too," said the 17-year-old left-hander from Illinois, who starts at the University of Michigan this fall. "So I didn't play the entire week leading up to this. And coming from the grass to the clay was a bit of an adjustment, and I'm still having a tough time with the footing on some balls. The heat is different. I'm used to it now, but the first two days were a struggle."

Lommer, who is 116 in the ITF World Junior rankings, took out a No. 9 seed in the second round, and admitted to being puzzled by not receiving a seed in this tournament.

"They say there's a seeding committee, that is apparently supposed to seed based off of ITF and UTR and everything else," said Lommer. "I don't know. This is my last junior tournament, so seeded or not seeded, I was going to give my best."

Lommer is not playing the Nationals in San Diego, opting for a vacation before she starts college.

"This is my chance here," she said.

The semifinal in the top half features two No. 9 seeds.  Isabella Lorenzini took out top seed Janice Shin 6-3, 6-3 to set up a meeting with Amanda Meyer, who advanced when unseeded Nina Sorkin retired with an ab injury after losing the first set 6-2.

Lorenzini got off to a quick 4-1 lead in the first set, and although she was unable to serve out the set at 5-2, Shin, unable to play her usual consistent game, was broken for the fifth time to give Lorenzini the set.

Shin's shouts of frustration at her unforced errors multiplied in the second set, even though she was able to stay close in the early stages. But after Lorenzini broke her from 40-0 up to take a 5-3 lead, Shin was in a tough spot, and Lorenzini closed out the win by taking the last four points after trailing 0-30.

The doubles semifinals are set, with the top four seeds advancing.

No. 1 seeds Lexi Mulinovich and Amanda Rogers will play No. 3 seeds Anna Brylin and Li in one semifinal and No. 2 seeds Bolton and Abigail Chiu will play No. 4 seeds Lommer and Victoria Flores.

The finals are set for the 12s and 14s divisions in the National Clay Courts.

In the boys 12s, No. 1 seed Evan Wen will face No. 6 seed Victor Lilov.
In the girls 12s,  No. 6 seed Katja Wiersholm (Henrik's sister) meets No. 2 seed Robin Montgomery.

In the boys 14s, the Khan brothers, Faris and Zane, who played each other for the gold ball in both the 12s Clay Courts and 12s National Hard Courts in 2014, will meet again for a USTA National title.

In the girls 14s, Ellie Coleman will face Christine Canete in the final.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Meyer Tops Chi in Four-Hour Marathon; Three Unseeded Players Reach Quarterfinals at USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts; Bellis Reaches Quarterfinals at WTA Stanford

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Memphis, TN--

A grueling four-hour match in the heat and humidity is a staple of every Girls 18s Clay Court Championship I've attended in the past nine years, and Thursday's round of 16 delivered today, with No. 9 seed Amanda Meyer's 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Meible Chi.

Because it was played on Court 1, which has no spectator seating, keeping up on all the ebbs and flows of the match was difficult, but as matches on the other three courts in the row started and ended, sometimes twice, there was no mistaking the effort of the two Floridians as hour after hour went by.

Chi was suffering physically more than two and a half hours into the match, getting treatment for a back injury, and, leading 5-3 in the second set, began cramping. Standing well behind the baseline, bent over and leaning on her racquet, Chi received treatment on that spot during the game.  She managed to close out the set, which gave her the mandatory (and not heat-related) 10-minute break to continue her recovery.

Meyer felt she had an advantage once the third set began.

"Knowing that she was still a little hurt, I tried to make the balls and take control of the point as quickly as possible, and stay in the rallies, not give up and go after everything," said Meyer, who turned 17 Monday. "I felt like I handled the conditions a little better."

Meyer got a double fault from Chi to go up 4-3 in the third set and consolidated the break for a 5-3 lead. Chi held at love to force Meyer to serve out the match, and Meyer made it easy on herself by making every first serve. She held at love, and after nearly four hours, Chi and Meyer exchanged a hug at the net.

"I train with Meible and we do a lot of practice matches together," said Meyer, a rising senior who is still considering her college options, while the 17-year-old Chi is starting at Duke this fall. "We sort of knew each others games, so it was just a battle of who could be the most consistent and who could take control of the point faster, who could stay in there mentally."

Training in Florida, Meyer has much experience and affection for the Har-Tru surface.

"I love the clay," said Meyer, who won the Florida State Closed on it last month. "It's my favorite surface. I was beyond excited to come here, and I'm just happy to play on this surface."

Chi finished the match, but she withdrew from the back draw and doubles.

Meyer's quarterfinal opponent is unseeded Nina Sorkin, who has won all five of her matches in straight sets, including today's 6-0, 6-3 victory over unseeded Nicole Conard.

The other quarterfinal in the top half of the draw features No. 1 seed Janice Shin against Isabella Lorenzini, a No. 9 seed.

Shin advanced with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over No. 9 seed Lexi Milunovich, coming from 4-2 down in the second set to avoid exceeding two hours on the court.  Lorenzini put an end to the run of 12-year-old Cori Gauff, earning a 6-3, 6-2 win.

"I really didn't think about her age or anything, I just played her like I would play anyone else," said the 17-year-old, who has verbally committed to Michigan. "I know she's good, and she's also taller than I am, but I just went out there and played how I'd played my previous matches."

Lorenzini went up a quick two breaks, as Gauff double faulted on game points in both her first and second service games. Gauff got two breaks of her own, but held only once in the set, and again double faulted to end the first set.

The second set was closer, with Gauff able to hold serve in her first two attempts, but she was broken the next two times, unable to play consistently enough to pressure Lorenzini.

"I honestly think people are too scared, because she's 12," said Lorenzini, who acknowledged her own feisty reputation. "I don't think she was expecting me to go out there and fight for it. But I love competing. She's a great player, she's very young, and I'm happy I beat her."

In the bottom half, unseeded Chelsea Kung will play No. 4 seed Ann Li and No. 9 seed Elysia Bolton will play unseeded Chiara Lommer.

Kung picked up her second straight three-set win over a seed, beating Emma Kurtz 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, while Li continued her dominant play, defeating No. 17 seed Anna Brylin 6-1, 6-1. Li has lost just nine games in her four wins.

Bolton defeated unseeded Abigail Forbes 6-3, 6-2 and will play unseeded Chiara Lommer, who beat No. 17 seed Anika Yarlagadda 7-5, 6-2. Lommer, who will start at Michigan this fall, has won all five of her matches in straight sets, while Bolton hasn't surrendered more than three games in any set and has kept her time on court to a minimum, a huge plus in the 100-degree heat.

Lightning in the area caused a delay in the round of 16 doubles matches scheduled for the afternoon, but all matches were completed, with the quarterfinals set for Friday. Three singles quarterfinalists, Bolton, Li and Lommer, have advanced to the doubles quarterfinals. For the draws, see the TennisLink site.

I haven't had an opportunity to follow the other tournaments going on in the US this week as I normally would, but wanted to mention Usue Arconada's first WTA win at the Citi Open in Washington DC, a 7-6(3), 6-4 decision over fellow wild card Francoise Abanda of Canada, and CiCi Bellis' run to her first WTA quarterfinal at the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.  Bellis, a wild card, defeated Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, the No. 6 seed, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round and tonight topped qualifier Sachia Vickery 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 to earn a meeting with top seed Venus Williams on Friday.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yarlagadda Ousts No. 2 Seed Martinelli; Six Unseeded Players Reach Round of 16 as Rain Again Disrupts USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championships

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Memphis, TN--

Dangerous heat and humidity were expected this week in Memphis, and that forecast has been on target, but the rain that has interrupted play the past three afternoons at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts has been something of a surprise.  Arriving at around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the heavy thunderstorm came after just seven of the 16 main draw matches were completed, with the rest in progress, or not yet started.

The heavy rain that drenched the Racquet Club of Memphis left only three courts playable after the more than three-hour delay, so matches were moved to those courts from their original locations, with those closest to finishing going on first.  Eventually four more courts dried enough to allow play, but the last match did not go on until after 7 p.m.

The day started with sunny skies, the usual stifling humidity, and an upset.  No. 2 seed Samantha Martinelli, last year's 16s Clay Courts champion, saw her winning streak on the surface end with No. 17 Anika Yarlagadda recording a 7-5, 6-0 victory.

Martinelli had finished playing after 7 p.m. on Tuesday night, earning a 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-5 win over Sophia Patel that took over three hours, not including an interruption due to lightning. Just over 12 hours later she was back on court, and the energy-sapping conditions conspired to keep her from finding her game.

Neither player could hold serve in the first seven games of the match, but when Yarlagadda finally did hold, in the eighth game, she earned an opportunity to serve out the set at 5-4.  That didn't happen, but she got another chance at 6-5 and made no mistake, holding at love to claim the first set.

Martinelli was broken to open the second set, and unlike the first set, Yarlagadda was able to hold easily in her first two service games. Martinelli looked a step slow, with many of her shots finding the net, while Yarlagadda was able to dictate play, and she closed out the match without allowing Martinelli a game point in the second set.

"I felt I was able to hit a lot more winners than I might have if I would have played her yesterday when she was more fresh," said the 14-year-old from Michigan. "But overall, I think I did play very well today, and I don't think she played her absolute best."

Yarlagadda, who won the Division I Michigan High School singles title as a freshman at West Bloomfield last month, doesn't play much on clay, but she thinks it suits her game style.

"I did play Intersectionals, and that's on clay," Yarlagadda said of the 16s sectional team competition last week in Louisiana. "So I got a week of practice and that really helped me.  I like it. I don't really finish points a lot, I'm more like a grinder, so I like the clay. The balls are slower, I can get to more and when I do have a chance to finish it, I will. On clay, the big hitters can't really hit that hard, so I like it."

Although she likes the surface, Yarlagadda is not fond of the weather in Memphis.

"It's been rough," she said. "It was so hot, even at 8 a.m. I was exhausted. But if this is where the tournament's going to be, you've got to get used to the heat."

Yarlagadda will face unseeded Chiara Lommer, who beat Maryann Rompf 6-4, 6-0 in the last main draw match to finish Wednesday night.

Top seed Janice Shin and No. 3 seed Meibel Chi were able to get their matches in before the rain, primarily by keeping them short.  Chi defeated No. 17 seed Catherine Cable 6-2, 7-5 and Shin beat No. 17 seed Anastasiya Joyner 6-2, 6-1. No. 4 seed Ann Li cruised past unseeded Thea Rice 6-3, 6-0 and will play No. 17 seed Anna Brylin, who beat No. 9 seed Anna Rogers 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Shin will play Lexi Milunivich, a No. 9 seed, in Thursday's round of 16, while Chi will face Amanda Meyer, also a No. 9 seed.

In addition to Lommer, five other unseeded players advanced to the fifth round. Twelve-year-old Cori Gauff continued her run, beating unseeded Kate Paulus 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, with the rain delay coming right after Gauff won the second set with a late break.  Gauff will play Isabella Lorenzini, a No. 9 seed, next.

Two unseeded players square off when Nina Sorkin plays Nicole Conard, and unseeded Chelsea Kung, a 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-3 winner over No. 9 seed Tatum Rice, will face No. 5 seed Emma Kurtz.

Abigail Forbes, the sixth unseeded player in the round of 16, plays No. 9 seed Elysia Bolton, who defeated Andrea Amortegui 6-0, 6-1.  Bolton has lost only eight games in her three wins. Forbes ended the run of Jessica Anzo 6-0, 3-6, 6-1.

The round of 16 doubles matches originally scheduled for this evening were postponed.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

At the Girls 14s in Plantation, the top two seeds--Mae Fmar Canete
and Fiona Crawley--failed to make the quarterfinals, with No. 6 seed Charlotte Owensby the highest seed remaining.  The top two seeds in the Boys 14s in Fort Lauderdale--Spencer Whitaker
and Spencer Brachman--were eliminated in today's round of 16.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Second Seed Martinelli Survives in Long Three-Setter; 12-Year-Old Gauff Advances to Round of 32 at Girls 18s Clay Court Championships

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Memphis, TN--

Last year's 16s Clay Court champion had all she could handle in Tuesday's third round of the USTA 18s Clay Courts, but No. 2 seed Samantha Martinelli kept her cool in the oppressive Memphis heat to post a 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-5 win over Sophia Patel.

Martinelli had a match point in the second set, and saw two more match points get away in the third set, with the 17-year-old from Las Vegas finally putting away the stubborn Patel on her third attempt to serve out the match.

The first set, which was interrupted in the fifth game for over an hour due to lightning in the area, featured only one hold of serve by either player, with Martinelli getting that in the third game.

After getting broken in second set to fall behind 2-1, Martinelli won four straight games and served for the match at 5-3, earning a match point at 40-30. Her backhand went long on that point, but a let called, caused by a ball from another court, had broken her concentration.

"I hit what I thought was a winner, but they called a let as I hit it," said Martinelli, whose match had a chair umpire, as all matches at the Racquet Club do. "That got to me mentally a little bit; that was tough to bounce back from."

Patel won four straight games to serve for the set, but was broken, giving Martinelli another chance to end it in straight sets. Patel played an excellent tiebreaker, however, going up 6-1, and converting on her fourth set point.

After the mandatory 10-minute break, Martinelli broke Patel to start the third set and was serving at 4-1 and 5-2.  In her second attempt to serve out the match, and her first in third set, Martinelli didn't earn a match point, with Patel hitting a perfect drop shot at 30-40 for the break.

Martinelli's second and third match points came in the next game, with Patel going down 15-40 on her serve. Although Patel played impressive defense on both points,  Martinelli ended up making forehand errors on both match points and Patel held for 5-4.

Martinelli started her third attempt to serve out the match with two double faults, but recovered with two forehand winners for 30-30. She missed a forehand long to give Patel a break point, and a crazy net cord on a desperate defensive lob by Patel dribbled over to make it 5-5.

"She definitely didn't let the pressure get to her," said Martinelli. "She played like it was any other score. That's fun to play against, but at the same time, a little frustrating."

Unfortunately for Patel, the same problem of holding serve presented itself in the next game, and after coming back from 0-40 to 30-40, Patel could only watch as Martinelli's forehand winner gave her a fourth opportunity to serve out the match.

This time Martinelli got first serves in and blasted her forehand for three straight winners, setting up match point No. 4.  Another great forehand forced an error from Patel and Martinelli had survived.

"I like to pride myself on not changing my game tactics the closer the match gets," Martinelli said. "I want to play as aggressive as I was, I don't want to revert to pushing or anything like that. I just went for my shots in the last game and it worked at the end, at the last minute."

Martinelli admitted that although she trains in Las Vegas, the brand of heat she's encountered this week in Memphis, where the temperature peaked at 100 in the mid-afternoon, has been draining.

"I'm not used to this kind of humidity and heat, being from Denver," said Martinelli. "I was in Virginia Beach last year, and I don't remember it being like this. This place is crazy."

Martinelli was the only Top 4 seed taken to three sets, with No. 1 seed Janice Shin defeating Sasha Cayward 6-1, 6-3 and No. 4 seed Ann Li beating Hada Chang by the same score.  No. 3 seed Meible Chi lost the first three games, two of them on her serve, to Emily Zhou, but Chi began to find her range midway through the first set to post a 7-5, 6-0 victory.

Two No. 5 seeds were eliminated in Tuesday's third round. Alyvia Jones was beaten by Nina Sorkin 6-0, 6-2 and 12-year-old Cori (Coco) Gauff defeated Cameron Corse by the same score.

Gauff, who finished third at the Southern Closed 18s last month, knows she's in a unique position now.

"It's fun playing up, because there's no pressure," said Gauff, who trains at ProWorld Tennis Academy in Delray Beach. "I try to take the advantage. I also get to meet other girls who are going to college or wanting to go pro."

Against Corse, Gauff lost only six points in the first set, with Corse struggling with double faults throughout the match.

"She was having trouble with her serve, which I was surprised about," said Gauff, who will not be able to play ITF junior events until next March, when she turns 13. "When I watched her match yesterday, her serve seemed pretty good, she had a nice kick serve and when she made it in, it was tough to get it back because it would bounce so high.  She was a good player, but I don't think today was one of her best days."

Gauff said she has been growing, with her current height 5-feet-6-and-half inches, and has been fortunate not to be suffering any issues from that.

"I got taller, so I'm not the shortest anymore," Gauff said. "Most people have pain in the knees, but I haven't any pain. The footwork, it's been tough to adjust, but my coaches at ProWorld have been helping me and it's gotten a lot better."

One No. 9 seed, McCartney Kessler, lost today, with Mimi Levine recording a 6-4, 7-6(3) victory.  Levine is one of four unseeded players remaining in that eighth of the draw, with Sorkin, Alycia Parks and Nicole Conard the others.

There were no doubles matches played today, with the round of 16 scheduled for Wednesday evening.

For all results, see the TennisLink site.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Anzo Tops Chiu, Top Four Seeds Breeze in Girls 18s Clay Court Openers; Boys 16s Clays Loses No. 1 and No. 2 Seeds

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Memphis, TN--

A rain shower when you've just broken your seeded opponent and are about to serve for the match is generally not ideal. But Jessica Anzo didn't let the brief delay interfere with her focus, returning to hold serve at 7-5, 5-2 to oust No. 5 seed Abigail Chiu in the second round of the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts.

"I had to focus on my serve," said the 16-year-old from Temecula, California, who finished off the final game with an ace at 40-15. "I just had to remember what I was taught on my serve and calm down. I had to pretend like my coach was telling me exactly what to do, in my head, so I could remember it."

Anzo, who is coached by former WTA Top 30 player Patricia Tarabini, doesn't get much of an opportunity to play on clay in Southern California, but she did spend a week on the surface before arriving in Memphis.

"I took a week to play on it, practice sets and matches, in San Diego, Rancho Santa Fe," said Anzo, who makes the 45-minute drive south to train with Tarabini. "But these courts are way better than California."

Anzo played her first match on Sunday, while Chiu, as a seed, received a bye.

"It helped playing yesterday," Anzo said. "I got used to the clay, what the ball would be like, slower, faster. You know how you get, you get really nervous, and I was trying to get away from that."

Anzo got a late break and hold to take the first set from Chiu and started the second set with a break, but that was the first of five consecutive breaks of serve.  Anzo finally consolidated her third break of Chiu, holding at love for a 40-0 lead, and as the rain drops began to dot the Har-Tru, broke Chiu again for a 5-2 lead.

"It kind of frustrated me," Anzo said of all the breaks to start the second set. "But I was all right, I've got to get this game. But I finally held the last two games."

Anzo used the drop shot effectively against Chiu and although their last match was a "long time ago," according to Anzo, she had another tactic to employ.

"I had to move her around and kind of wear her down," said Anzo, who looked energetic despite temperatures in the mid-90s and a heat index of over 100 degrees. "Then take the opportunity for the approach shot, make the right decision. She wore down, so my plan worked."

The top four seeds, all of whom played at the Racquet Club of Memphis, the main tournament site, surrendered a total of just five games in their four victories.

Top seed Janice Shin kicked off the morning with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Maria Santilli and No. 2 seed Samantha Martinelli followed with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Zoe Klass-Warch.  No. 3 seed Meibel Chi won the last ten games of the match in her 6-2, 6-0 win over Gabriela Armas, and No. 4 seed Ann Li blanked Courtney Kowalsky 6-0, 6-0.

Although six No. 17 seeds fell, the only other seed in the top 16 to go out in her first match was Caroline Dunleavy, a No. 9 seed, who was beaten by Chiara Lommer 6-1, 6-0.  Aside from Chi, Lommer has the highest ITF junior ranking of anyone in the field--116.

The third round of doubles was played this evening, with the top seeded teams of Lexi Milunovich and Anna Rogers and Elysia Bolton and Chiu advancing to the round of 16 in straight sets.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

At the USTA Boys 16s Clay Court Championships in Delray Beach, No. 1 seed Carson Haskins and No. 2 seed Kevin Zhu both lost in their first matches in the second round. Haskins, the Easter Bowl champion, lost to Nicklas Oberg 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, and Zhu, who finished third at the Easter Bowl, lost to Noah Dufort 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.